BCRG (Birmingham Cardio-Renal Group)

A man undergoing an MRI scanGroup leaders: Professor Jonathan N Townend, Professor Charles J Ferro and Professor Richard P Steeds.


The broad theme of the current work is to characterise the structural and functional deterioration within the heart and arterial tree affecting patients with chronic kidney disease and assess methods of improving outcomes.

Our research group

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) as determined by a reduced glomerular filtration rate (GFR - a measure of kidney function) affects up to 15% of the western population, including more than 45% of those aged over 70 years. Studies of patients with even mild CKD show that they are at increased risk of heart failure, stroke and sudden cardiac death with a graded association with reduced GFR. The reasons for these adverse effects on cardiovascular health are not clear. Our research aims to determine what causes these damaging processes and then to establish methods of treatment. 

Previous research

The original Chronic Renal Impairment in Birmingham (CRIB) study was published in 2003, documenting the relative lack of importance of traditional risk factors in CKD. Since this the BCRG have demonstrated abnormalities of vascular and ventricular function in patients with early stage CKD and gone on to design potential therapeutic strategies. In the randomised controlled trial CRIB-2, we investigated the effect of treatment with spironolactone, a mineralocorticoid receptor blocker (MRB), in combination with ACE inhibitors and or angiotensin receptor blockers in patients with early stage CKD. Previously considered to be contra-indicated in CKD, spironolactone was shown to improve prognostically important indices including arterial stiffness and left ventricular (LV) mass with improvement in markers of LV diastolic and systolic function. 

Current projects

  1. Spiro-CKD

    The SPIRO-CKD trial of spironolactone versus chlorthalidone in early stage CKD has been awarded a British Heart Foundation special project grant. The multi-centre study led by the BCRG should demonstrate the effects of mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist therapy on LV mass and arterial stiffness in this population, independent of changes in blood pressure. The study has completed recruitment and results are expected in 2019.

  2. CKD-Fibrosis

    CKD-Fibrosis has been awarded a project grant from the British Heart Foundation and uses the very latest in cardiac MRI sequences to elucidate the role of myocardial fibrosis in the pathogenesis of CKD-related heart failure and sudden death. We have completed recruitment for this study and results are expected in 2019. 


    Kidney donors provide a unique population without underlying disease and this allows the longitudinal study of an isolated reduction in renal function on the heart and vasculature. A comprehensive pathophysiological study of living kidney donors was previously funded by a British Heart Foundation Fellowship (CRIB-DONOR). The results indicate that living kidney donors have a small increase in left ventricular mass post nephrectomy. We have been recently awarded a second British Heart Foundation Fellowship to follow these patients up again after five years. Recruitment is underway and due to finish in 2019.


    Meanwhile, a less detailed but larger scale UK multi-centre study (EARNEST) of kidney donors has also received a project grant from the British Heart Foundation and involves a number of other UK transplant centres including Cambridge, Glasgow, Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield, St George’s London and Coventry. Over 400 patients have been recruited. Provisional results are anticipated in the next few months.


    Kidney transplantation is the most effective treatment for patients with advanced kidney disease and is associated with an improvement in cardiovascular outcomes for patients. We have recently been awarded a British Heart Foundation Fellowship to investigate the effects of kidney transplantation on the heart using specialised MRI techniques. Recruitment commenced in December 2018.

Recent publications


For full list of publications:


Principal Investigators

PhD Students and Clinical Research Fellows

  • Dr Anna M Price, Clinical Research Fellow and Spr in Nephrology 
  • Dr Luke C Pickup, Clinical Research Fellow and SpR in Cardiology
  • Dr Ashwin Radhakrishnan, Clinical Research Fellow and SpR in Cardiology
  • Dr Jonathan P Law, Clinical Research Fellow and SpR in Nephrology

Former Group Members

  • Dr Manvir K Hayer, SpR in Nephrology
  • Dr Khai Ng, SpR in Nephrology
  • Dr William E Moody, Consultant Cardiologist with an Interest in Cardiac Imaging
  • Dr Colin D Chue, Consultant Cardiologist with an Interest in Heart Failure
  • Dr Nicola C Edwards, Honorary Senior Research Fellow and Consultant Cardiologist with an Interest in Cardiac Imaging
  • Dr Victoria Stoll, Clinical lecturer and SpR in Cardiology